On Friday, Russia agreed to talks with Ukraine, a Kremlin spokesman said, adding that Moscow is willing to send a delegation to Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
“In response to Zelenskyy’s offer, Vladimir Putin is ready to send to Minsk a Russian delegation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to The Wall Street Journal. The spokesman said the Russian delegation would include defense and foreign ministries officials, as well as an official from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for the talks with Putin in a Telegram post on Friday.
“I would like to address the president of the Russian Federation once again. Fighting is going on all over Ukraine. Let’s sit down at the negotiating table to stop the death of people,” Zelensky said.
Russia’s sudden willingness to talk with Ukraine leaders comes hours after the Kremlin initially rejected the request, the New York Times reported.
“We do not see the possibility of recognizing as democratic a government that persecutes and uses methods of genocide against its own people,” Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.
Moscow also said the war with Ukraine would be over “within a short time” and vowed that it would ultimately prevent a “larger conflict” in Europe.
“Russia cannot allow Ukraine to become a dagger raised above us in the hands of Washington,” the head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, Sergei Naryshkin, said on Russian television. “The special military operation will restore peace in Ukraine within a short amount of time and prevent a potential larger conflict in Europe.”
Russian officials have repeatedly claimed that the attacks are part of an effort to “denazify” Ukraine, a characterization that one Ukraine official called “absurd.”
“This is absurd. In 2014, Ukraine has chosen a path again to Democracy…Since 2014, Ukraine has been not only reforming itself, but preserving and developing a democracy in Ukraine. We are a country that now has our sixth president, and it’s all during the same time that Russia has one president,” said Ukraine Ambassador Oksana Markarova during a press conference Thursday. “We are a democratic country. All of our friends and allies can attest that Ukraine is a very accepting community. That actually after the freedoms disappeared in Russia, all of the people, many of the people, actually, you know, starting from Radio Free Europe and others, found their home in Ukraine. Especially when they were first forced out from Russia, and then forced out from Belarus.”
“So, I not only reject those claims, they are completely false. And I know that many people of different nationalities call Ukraine their home, and moreover, many people of different nationalities defend their home in Ukraine right now,” she added.